19th Century Figures

Mademoiselle Lenormand  (1772–1843)

Mlle Le Normand was a famous fortune
teller and political activist. While she is not known to have used Tarot cards, per se, she greatly popularized the idea of fortune telling by means of cards.  Quoting Decker, et al:

“In the end, [her] career proved to be quite successful. Her very modern sense of publicity and her use of the media of the time . . . have brought her a universal fame. . . . She hardly knew what the Tarot was and never referred to [other occultists]. But the years have not eclipsed her name: she really remains the most famous cartomancer of all time” (142)

While several people were put forward (or put themselves forward) as her successor, one name (as it was said) stands out, that of Edmond (more about which below).

Eliphas Levi   1810-1875
(aka Alphonse-Louis Constant)

  • In 1854 – 1856 he published The Doctrine and Ritual of High Magic

According to Decker, et al, Eliphas Levi provided the next big impetus to the study of Tarot and the occult. Indeed, they suggest that without him, the Tarot as we know it would not exist. They go on to write:

“Levi completed the task, begun in the Renaissance, of synthesising the various ingredients of the Western tradition of magic. It was he that made it a single tradition. . . . he made a synthesis. In his writings, the Cabala, alchemy, Hermetism, astrology, magnetism, and even a little black magic from the grimoires are inextricably intertwined. . . . Among the diverse ingredients forming the mish-mash [of his] magical system was the Tarot” (169-170, 171).

Inspired by Etteilla (for whom, personally, he expressed contempt), the Tarot became, for Levi, a fundamental source of magical imagery and doctrine (170, 171). “An imprisoned person”, he writes, “with no other book than the Tarot, if he knew how to use it, could in a few years acquire universal knowledge” (24). In addition to forging a general synthesis of materials from all of the aforementioned disparate traditions, Levi addressed the problem of the order of the trumps and their relation to the Hebrew alphabet. His rather “eccentric solution” was (unlike de Mellot) to treat them in ascending order and to place the unnumbered Fool in position XXI between Judgement and The World (173).

Paul Christian    1811-1877
(aka Jean-Baptiste Pitois)

  • A neighbor and student of Eliphas Levi…
  • Studied astrology and claimed to have prophetic insight…
  • Published The Red Man of the Tuileries in 1863.
  • Published History of Magic…the Supernatural World and of Fate… in 1870
    — Tarot Trumps are featured in Book II of this work, The Mysteries of the Pyramids
  • First referred to Tarot Trumps as arcana (Decker 202).

Paul Christian’s books rarely mention the Tarot by name, but were very influential. He placed much emphasis on astrology and his descriptions and designs were also seminal:

Editor’s NOTE:  The image to the right (and the ones below) are from The Grand Tarot Belline, by Mage Edmond, but was based on the descriptions of the Tarot trumps found in The Red Man of the Tuileries, by Paul Christian (Decker 162).

Mage Edmond  1829-1881
(aka Jules Charles Ernest Billaudot)

  • Published The Urn of Destiny, or the Future Unveiled in 1854
  • Created what is now known as the Grand Tarot Belline in 1865
    (see reproduction, below)

According to Decker, et al, Edmond’s book was…

“…largely devoted to describing a method of cartomancie with [Etteilla’s first Tarot deck] Grand Etteilla I . . . [for which he] makes use of the twelve houses of the Zodiac, but in a very clear way (161).

Jean Alexander Vailliant              1804-1886

  • Champion of Romanian Nationalism (Romani = “Gypsies”)
  • Published The Romanies: The True History of the True Gypsies in 1857.  According to Decker, et al, Vailliant perpetuated the myth of the Gypsy origin of the Tarot based in part on his contemporary knowledge of occult literature and, in part, on a twenty year old memory of seeing a Gypsy woman at a home he was visiting seated at a table playing with a deck of cards which, in retrospect, he presumed to be tarot cards (222). In fact, there is no evidence that the Tarot was part of Gypsy culture prior to the advent of such speculation in occult literature—at which point, the Gypsies began to realize that they could profit from the association and naturally began to use them (228-233).

(aka Dr. Gerard-Anaclet-Vincent Encausse)

  • Published several books on The Occult Sciences from 1888-1891
  • Published The Tarot of the Gypsies: The Oldest Book in the World in 1889
  • Published The Divinatory Tarot: key to telling fortunes with the cards…


Late 18th Century Figures

19th Century Figures

Early 20th Century Figures

Next Up: –> 8. Two Esoteric Schools Worthy of Special Mention